For a long time, hiking in the Harz Mountains was not easily accessible due to its history. Today, however, this charming mountain landscape is open to hiking enthusiasts from near and far. The Harz National Park, which has existed since 2006, is the first transnational national park in Germany and was created by merging the two existing national parks Harz (Lower Saxony) and Hochharz (Saxony-Anhalt). The Harz Mountains extend over a length of 110 km and a width of 30-40 km, covering a total area of 2,226 km². There are plenty of hiking trails in this extensive region, making it possible to explore the nature and landscape over a longer period of time.

The Brocken, the Harz and the GDR

The Brocken, with a height of 1,141 meters, is the highest peak in the Harz Mountains and offers a breathtaking panoramic view of the surrounding landscape. Due to its striking silhouette and its peak, which is often shrouded in mist, it is often described as a mystical place that has inspired sagas and legends for centuries. The Brocken is also known for its changeable weather and rugged, untouched nature, which fascinates hikers and nature lovers alike.

Auf dem Gipfel des Brockens
Arriving on the Brocken.

During the time of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), the Brocken was a symbol of political tension and surveillance. Due to its strategic location, the mountain served as an important site for monitoring the inner-German border. The GDR built a listening and espionage facility on the Brocken, known as “Brocken 1”. Military activities and communications in the West were intercepted and monitored from here. The history of the Brocken during the GDR era thus reflects the political conflicts and the Cold War that shaped Germany and Europe at that time. Nowadays, the Brocken is a popular destination for tourists and hikers

Long-distance hiking in the Harz Mountains

The Harz National Park is home to a variety of long-distance hiking trails that wind their way through the breathtaking landscape and attract hiking enthusiasts from all over the world. The most notable routes include the Harzer Hexenstieg, the Harzer Baudensteig, the Selketal-Stieg and the Karstwanderweg. These trails offer a varied hiking experience, ranging from dense forests and rocky peaks to picturesque valleys and clear streams. Of these routes, the Harzer-Hexenstieg is undoubtedly the best known. With a total length of around 100 km, it stretches across the Harz Mountains from west to east and offers hikers the opportunity to immerse themselves in the mystical atmosphere of the mountains. The route leads through dense forests, past idyllic lakes and along historic paths interwoven with the fascinating history and legends of the Harz.

Overnight accommodation in the Harz Mountains

I would generally advise against wild camping in the national park. However, there are plenty of guesthouses and hotels in the Harz Mountains to find accommodation during the hikes. If you would like to sleep in a tent, there are fewer options. If you overdo it on your hikes or need shelter from the weather, there are a large number of mountain huts in the Harz Mountains. Many people seek shelter in the huts on the edge of the Harz Witches’ Trail in particular.

Wanderungen in Hiking in the Harz Mountains – Lower Saxony, Germany 

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Fernwanderwege in Hiking in the Harz Mountains – Lower Saxony, Germany